Monday, February 25, 2013

What would sequestration do to the Worcester Public Schools?

By now, you may have seen the state-by-state breakdown of what sequestration would mean should it kick in on Friday. You can find Massachusetts here.
The best estimates we have are that sequestration would cut the federal education grants by approximately 5.1% on March 1.
The Worcester Public Schools are receiving about $27 million (see page 59 and following in the FY13 budget; sorry, we apparently didn't do the internal links to budget sections this year) this year in the grants that are affected by sequestration. The largest of those grants are (grant allocation starts on page 167 of the budget):
  • Head Start, which for FY13 is funded at $5,766,902, serves 730 preschoolers and their families in Worcester. Head Start, because it is directly funded to us (it doesn't first go through the state), starts a new fiscal year in May. That means that this program would see the earliest cut in WPS, as we would have to come up with the funds to pay five teachers for two months out of FY13 dollars, or cut those teachers.
  • Title I, which for FY13 is funded at $9,984,145, provides services for low income students, In Worcester, we use these funds for whole school programs at schools with large numbers of low income students. If you saw the presentation at our February 7 school committee meeting, you saw how this is being allocated this fiscal year.
  • Title IIA, which for FY13 is funded at $1,730,325, funds "highly qualified teachers." In Worcester, this grant is largely used to fund instructional coaches, who provide on-site professional development for teachers. As we are required to provide professional development for teachers, regardless, any cut from this grant would need to be made up by general fund dollars.
  • Title III, which for FY13 is funded at $1,146,244, is funding for English Language Learners. This funding goes to several different types of support from our kids--who come to us from all over the world--who are learning English. We run after school programs; we have IA's in classrooms to assist with their English acquisition; we give extra professional development for teachers who teach children who are learning English. All of these supports would be imperiled by a cut in this grant.
  • IDEA, which for FY13 is funded at $7,320,000, is a grant for special education. It is another grant which is particularly worrying, because nearly the entire grant funds instructional assistants that are legally required for special education services. Were a 5% cut to hit IDEA, the Worcester Public Schools still need to provide those services, and thus those IA's. We would have to cut elsewhere in the budget to fund those IA positions.
These grants for FY13 total $27 million dollars. A cut of 5% is the equivalent of 23 teachers.

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